The Edmonton Oilers fell to the St. Louis Blues after their overtime game-winning goal was negated for an offside.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid – the player offside on the play – spoke out about the ruling after the game.
“The league’s got to clarify some of these rules. What’s a kick? What’s offside? What’s goalie interference? It kind of depends on the night I guess, so disappointing, obviously,’ said McDavid. “Since I was a kid, I thought if you had possession of the puck it’s onside.”
He’s not wrong… well, not exactly. Let’s break down the play — and the rule.
McDavid carried the puck through the neutral zone, crossing the blueline ahead of the puck while being defended against by Blues center Ryan O’Reilly. McDavid briefly lost the puck before collecting it in the faceoff circle. The Edmonton captain flicked it toward the net, with Leon Draisaitl there to clean up and score on the rebound.
The NHL’s Situation Room initiated a challenge to review the play. At any point in overtime or in the final minute of regulation, the league automatically reviews all plays eligible for a Coach’s Challenge.
After a few minutes, the ruling came down.
“After review of the the play, it was determined the play was offside,” announced referee Corey Syvret. “There is no goal.”
From Rule 83:
A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with the blue line, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line.
A player controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered “off-side,” provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the leading edge of the blue line.
McDavid clearly entered ahead of the puck, which doesn’t necessarily make him offside. What the officials and the league had to consider next was whether he had both possession and control.
The NHL Rule Book defines possession as:
The last player to physically touch the puck with his stick or body shall be considered in possession of the puck. A player can have possession of the puck without control, but he cannot have control of the puck without possession
There’s no question McDavid, as the last player to touch the puck, had possession. Did he have control?
Control is defined by the league as:
The act of propelling the puck with the stick, hand or feet. Control of the puck is not lost when contact with the puck is made by an opponent, the boards or the net, provided the player in control of the puck continues propelling the puck.
McDavid had control of the puck in the neutral zone. At some point after the zone entry, he lost control of the puck. The puck slid away, going between O’Reilly’s skates, where it was next touched by Blues defenseman Colton Parayko before being picked up by Draisaitl.
So, when does he lose control? That’s the crux of this call.
McDavid last touches the puck prior to zone entry, before his skates cross the line. Some time between then and the puck going past O’Reilly, it was determined that McDavid lost control. O’Reilly appears to deliver a one-handed stick check on McDavid, which comes after the puck has already crossed through the blue paint.
It appears the league – making a judgment call, as is necessary in most rulings – felt that McDavid, still maintaining possession, briefly loses control of the puck prior to it crossing the line. O’Reilly’s stickwork prevents him from recovering the puck, driving the lack of control.
Had McDavid been able to play that puck, this may have been allowed to stand.
Here’s the NHL’s official ruling:
Video review determined that Edmonton’s Connor McDavid preceded the puck into the offensive zone without possession and control and, therefore, was in an off-side position prior to Leon Draisaitl’s goal.
According to Rule 38.9, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a “GOAL” call on the ice is that the NHL Situation Room, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the On-Ice Official(s), determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an “Off-Side” infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”
McDavid spoke after the game, contesting the clarity of the rule book.
“We just want some clarity on some of these rules,” McDavid pleaded. “We’ve been burned on a few kicks and stuff like that. Calgary had the situation last year in the playoffs. It kind of goes back a long way not understanding some of the rules of our own game. It’s kinda funny I guess.”
The Oilers captain even called back to a controversial offside call on a Colorado Avalanche goal against Edmonton in last year’s playoffs.
“We kinda get burned on a call in the playoffs over a similar type situation where we don’t know if it’s offside or onside.”
Though both were reviewed for a potential offside, the situations are entirely different. The goal scored by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar was effectively a delayed offside. Makar himself did not precede the puck into the attacking zone, and held off touching the puck until all Colorado players cleared the zone.
It’s also different from some of the other plays where an attacking player preceded the puck into the attacking zone while maintaining possession and control, like Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom did on this eventual overtime goal from Alexander Ovechkin.
On that play, Backstrom clearly retains possession and control of the puck through the zone entry and into the attacking zone.
Retired NHL referee Dave Jackson (@ESPNRefNHL), now a Rules Analyst with ESPN, broke down the McDavid offside on Twitter:
If you watch the video very carefully, [McDavid] last touches the puck before he’s fully in the zone. He propels it across the blueline behind him. He enters before the puck and NEVER TOUCHES IT AGAIN until after being physically engaged by the D-man, it then goes underneath his skate, through the D-man’s legs and is poke-checked by another [St. Louis Blues] player. It then goes through [McDavid’s] legs to Draisaitl who is the 2nd player not named [McDavid] to touch the puck. [McDavid] does not touch the puck from the time it leaves his stick outside the blueline until he receives the pass from Draisaitl. Best player in the world maybe, but that is not the definition of control in any sense of the rule.
It was a tough break for the Oilers, as the St. Louis Blues went on to win the game 4-3 in overtime.
Referees were Kyle Rehman (#10) and Corey Syvret (#23), with linesmen C.J. Murray (#68) and Trent Knorr (#74). The final ruling on the disallowed goal was made by the Situation Room.